Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada weighed in on our Presidential election when he recently addressed the United Nations. He told world leaders, “Fear has never created a single job or fed a single family.”
His quote sounds good, very statesman-like, but unfortunately it’s completely incorrect. If you pause for just a moment and consider what fear does you’d have to conclude it creates a tremendous number of jobs. Consider the following:
- The military – It exists because of the threat of war.
- Police – They exist to serve and protect. This arises because of fear and people who break the law.
- Insurance – It gives peace of mind because it reduces the anxiety that comes with the fear of loss (home destroyed, car accident, theft, etc.).
I’ve spent my adult life in the insurance industry and I tell people we’re a noble industry because we do two things:
- We help people. When people have a loss they’re thankful when they have the right insurance to help them get back on their feet.
- We help the economy. When an insurance company guarantees payment in the event your home or auto is destroyed banks lend more freely. That means more homes and autos are sold which means more people are employed as each are made.
Trudeau’s statement that fear doesn’t create jobs is ludicrous. Here are just a few facts from 2015 on the U.S. insurance industry from the Insurance Information Institute:
- People spent more than $1.2 trillion on insurance products.
- There were 5,296 insurance companies.
- The industry employed 2.5 million people.
In much the same way that marketing professionals want you to buy their product, Mr. Trudeau wants people to buy into the notion that Donald Trump is peddling fear in an effort to win the election. He is, but so is Hillary Clinton. As I wrote this summer in The Politics of Fear: They’re Trying to Scarcity the Hell Out of You, using fear to win votes is a very old strategy and is used equally on both sides of the aisle.
Whenever someone is using fear they’re tapping into the principle of scarcity. First know this; fear has served mankind well because it’s a survival instinct. From Robert Cialdini’s book Influence Science and Practice, according to social psychologists Haselton & Nettle, “One prominent theory accounts for the primacy of loss over gain in evolutionary terms. If one has enough to survive, an increase in resources will be helpful but a decrease in those same resources could be fatal. Consequently, it would be adaptive to be especially sensitive to the possibility of loss.”
Second, quite often fear of loss moves us to take actions that ultimately serve us well. If scarcity led to more bad choices than good we’d stop responding to it.
Having shared those two thoughts remember this – there are times when scarcity is legitimate and there are times when it’s manipulative. Manipulators realize the power of this principle and will use it to their advantage.
So the real question becomes; is the fear (scarcity) legitimate? If it is then you should pay heed and take appropriate action. When it’s not legitimate then reframe it as someone’s attempt to manipulate you.
And what about the November election? It’s my personal opinion that both Republicans and Democrats are trying to manipulate all of us. They all tell half-truths, outright lie and manipulate statistics in their favor in an effort to grab power. Each side tells us every election that it’s the most important election ever, that our country and way of life is at stake. It’s all BS!
I started with Mr. Trudeau so I guess I should end with him. Canadians seem to love him. He’s young, good looking and charismatic so he’s gaining notoriety on the world stage. I don’t know a lot about him but I know this, his quote about fear not producing jobs or feeding people is laughable. As you should do with any politician, you would do well to look beyond the veneer and critically think about what he says next time he speaks.